Chef Danielle Leoni: The Breadfruit & Rum Bar Owner

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My Native Admission Statement: I am known for seafood and sustainability. The Breadfruit & Rum Bar is a Jamaican restaurant and rum bar at heart. I want to show the nation that Jamaican food is beautiful, complex and deserves to be celebrated just as any other revered cuisine. This mission has become my platform for change. Through my food, I am able to shape our supply chain, food system, how people think about food and in turn their relationship with food. I have a decade long vision of my work inspiring others to choose to support fishers and farmers who are practicing their craft in harmony with the planet. Practicing patience, empathy and listening makes me the best version of myself. Stopping myself from making assumptions and always being willing to hear another point of view.

How do you motivate others?

Motivation comes from a sense of purpose. We are not just cooks, waiters and bartenders. We change the world with each guest we serve. Helping my team understand that greeting a guest, filling a glass of water and offering food has a real impact on the lives of our farmers and fishers, their families, our community, our state, our nation and in turn our planet is motivation enough. We are a part of the future, the density of our planet. We are changemakers.

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Ivy Knight: Journalist & Cultural Programmer

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My Native Admission Statement: I’m a journalist who writes regularly for Condé Nast, VICE, Playboy and the Globe & Mail. I’m also a cultural programmer and I’ll be taking part in the WCR Conference this month for the first time. I’ll be doing on-stage interviews with a number of chefs from across the country talking about how they are changing the traditional structures of restaurant kitchens. The panel will include people like Martha Hoover, a sex crimes prosecutor turned restaurateur in Indianapolis, and Kelly Fields, a chef and mentorship advocate in New Orleans. The keynote speaker will be Laurie Woolever, former assistant to Anthony Bourdain and co-writer of his last book. She'll be talking about mental health and addiction in the restaurant industry. The lineup is really inspiring and the knowledge these women can share is worth way more than the cost of a ticket. Mentorship, addressing harassment, listening to and empowering employees – these are all things that will change the outdated macho culture of kitchens and ensure better work environments for everyone in the industry. That's for people in the restaurant business. For people in the freelance writing world, there has never been a greater need for content than right now and access is unparalleled. Editors for the biggest publications post their email addresses on their twitter profiles for a reason. They want new voices.

How did you get into the industry?

I started writing while I was working in restaurants. My perspective, as a working line cook and not your typical wealthy gourmand, was not very well represented in the food writing scene at that time. My voice from the kitchen trenches sparked an interested readership before I deserved one. But it gave me confidence to find my voice and it gave me experience as a writer that took the place of schooling. I hustled hard, I worked for free and learned on the job. I don’t work for free anymore but the rest – hustling and learning- is still a big part of what I do.

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